Max Angelelli & Ricky Taylor
When it Comes to Podium Finishes, SunTrust Team Has Been ‘Jersey Sure’
MILLVILLE, N.J. – Four trips to New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, four podium finishes. That’s quite an impressive resume for the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP team of Wayne Taylor Racing at the 2.25-mile, 14-turn road course about an hour’s drive south of Philadelphia that opened in 2008.
But, considering none of those four finishes placed the SunTrust Racing driver duo on the very top step of the podium, the third-year combination of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor is on a mission – to score that first New Jersey victory for SunTrust – as it returns to tackle Sunday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Global Barter 250.
Angelelli and Taylor are the most recent winners on the 13-race Rolex Series tour for 2012. They took advantage of a superfast racecar in wet and oftentimes torrentially rainy conditions to score the team’s 19th Rolex Series win two weekends ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was a much-needed win that propelled the SunTrust Racing team right back into the thick of the Rolex Series championship after a hugely devastating 14th-place finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
I do have some question marks about this year because we have a brand new aero package.
A solid top-five finish at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., in round two, coupled with the victory at Homestead have moved the team to within nine points of the championship lead with 10 races remaining.
And, most importantly, the spirits are sky high as Angelelli and Taylor return to the South Jersey track where the SunTrust Racing machine has finished second, second, third and second over the series’ first four visits there, respectively.
The 22-year-old Taylor, who at Homestead was the finishing driver in a Rolex Series sprint race for the first time with the SunTrust team he joined full-time in 2010, will be back in his familiar role of qualifying and race-starting driver this weekend. Last year at New Jersey, he blazed to his fifth of six consecutive pole positions, led 24 of the race’s opening 26 laps and 36 laps overall, and put the SunTrust car in position to grab its third runner-up finish at the facility.
Angelelli, back in his familiar role as race finisher this weekend, looks to find the magic formula that will close the deal at New Jersey, once and for all, and hoist the first-place trophy for the second consecutive race.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
You’re headed to a track where you’ve never finished off the podium after winning your first race of the season. That has to mean you’re excited to be going to New Jersey this weekend, right?
“New Jersey has been good for us the last four years. I do have some question marks about this year because we have a brand new aero package, so that will be a new variable at every track we go to for the first time this year. We know very well our mechanical side of things, but question marks remain on the aero side. New Jersey is a high-downforce racetrack. It’s very similar in many respects to Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.). At Barber, we struggled with our car setup and it’s really hard to predict how we are going to look this weekend. Hopefully, we learned some things at Barber that we can transfer to New Jersey and not be surprised like we were at Barber. The balance was a bit of a struggle at Barber and time was against us. The limited number of tires was working against us. At New Jersey we will have a promoter test day on Thursday and more tires available to us to figure things out. All of these things will be a major help for us as we try to understand the SunTrust Corvette DP for New Jersey. Hopefully we will have another successful weekend.”
In the big picture, you’re back in the championship chase thanks to the win at Homestead after a devastating start to the season at Daytona. Are you feeling better about the SunTrust team’s chances to win it all this year?
“I never felt like we were out of it. I never feel like we’re out of it. It’s a long road, as is every championship season. Everything can happen, and we saw that last race. We saw in past this is a good formula that GRAND-AM has put together, and that is that nobody is really dead as far as their chance to win the championship. Anything can happen and the championship is very close. The good and the bad of this championship is that you can always recover. The bad is that the guy who leads is going to have an easy life, even though that sounds like a contradiction. If you lead but you score good points even though you don’t win, that secures your position every week. At the same time, the people who are fighting in the back and are pursuing, you’re never completely out.”
This is your fifth trip to the New Jersey track. Are you getting more and more accustomed to getting around there?
“I always liked the track, as I do many, many tracks in the U.S. I have no major issues or anything. The only unfortunate thing is, it seems all the new racetracks are designed in a way that it is difficult for us to overtake in these GRAND-AM prototypes. At Barber, New Jersey and other racetracks in the new era of racetracks, it’s really difficult to overtake. The approaching speed to the corners is usually slow, and the cornering speed is not much of a difference. So you aren’t able to utilize heavy braking from a superfast speed to a super slow speed to give you a chance to make your moves. When you don’t have that combination, overtaking is very difficult. But, in time, you can and you must take a chance and you end up with door-to-door contact, and that is a good thing for the spectators.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Your overall thoughts heading to New Jersey after a much-needed win at Homestead two weeks ago?
“I think it’s going to be another tough one. The racetrack is similar to Barber, and we really struggled at Barber. The big thing is going to be tire wear. Last year, during the first qualifying lap, the speeds were already dropping off. It’s going to be a little cooler this year with the race in early May instead of late July, but tire wear still will be the biggest issue. Last year, we were fast. But during the race, the 01 (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, which won the race) didn’t take tires when we did, and they were matching us with their lap times. That’s a little scary. But at least we’ll have a promoter test day Thursday to help us figure things out a little better.”
After what happened at Daytona, are you surprised to be back in the championship chase so soon?
“I don’t think I ever expected to get back into it this quickly. Now it puts a little more pressure on each race us because we are right back in the mix again. We can’t let up. We need to keep going. I think everybody’s really happy because it was a strategy call to not pit on that last yellow that helped secure the win. Our car was obviously very fast in the wet. But I think we knew what the weather was going to do and that the race could possibly be cut short. I’m satisfied we made the right decision. It was definitely a team win and a Max (Angelelli) win. All I did was inherit the lead and then not go off. If somebody else would’ve won that way, I would’ve said they were lucky. But when it happens to you, you realize that you make your own breaks and the win was definitely well-deserved.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Coming off the win at Homestead, what is the team’s outlook as it heads to New Jersey this weekend?
“Obviously, the season started out really badly, but Homestead really turned things around. We’ve narrowed the points gap and the Ganassi team took the points lead, again, so we’ll take it all for what it is. Like Homestead in the dry, New Jersey is also a track where we’ve not had a lot of success. Yes, we have three seconds and a third in our four trips there, but we race to win. That’s what this program is all about, so we are out to get our first win there. Second and third really won’t cut it. We’ll have a promoter test day on Thursday to try and get the tires figured out for the weekend. I’ll tell you what – we’d welcome the rain, once again, this weekend. As you saw at Homestead, rain is the great equalizer. Overall, we’re just excited to be headed to another race weekend. We always like to go racing. Obviously, coming into the weekend having won the previous race, everybody’s spirits are especially high. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”